Here is a question from Danielle. She’s got 1-year-old twins, and life is pretty crazy for her. She says, “Our first year has been very hard and both parents are lacking a ton of sleep.” They both work outside the home, Mom and Dad, and they feel like it’s a constant struggle just to enjoy family.
They’ve got 1-year-old twins and a 5-year-old. Life is kind of crazy and complicated. Combine that with the fact that the twins are constantly getting into trouble. They like to go into the bathroom and play in the toilet. The 5-year-old, of course, forgets to flush and leaves the bathroom door open. And so, it’s a cycle where the 5-year-old is creating situations where the twins then take advantage and get into trouble.
She wonders if I have any advice.
The First Year with Twins Is Crazy
First of all, Danielle, or any of you other listeners who feel like this also describes your home where things are in complete chaos, it is completely normal to have this kind of stressful and frazzled life in your family when you’ve got really young twins in your home, especially if you’ve got other young children, as well.
I know that acknowledging that doesn’t solve all your problems but at least you know that we’ve all gone through something like this.
The first year of twins is completely crazy. It’s nuts. Fortunately things do get better as time goes on. Your twins will get more self sufficient and eventually they will only use the bathroom for its intended purpose. Of course, our twins find other things to play with in the bathroom. Water is always a favorite thing with kids.
So, if it’s not one thing it’s another. But they’ll move on from something totally disgusting like the toilet to just playing with the water in the sink.
Now, we had two older, although still very young, boys when our twin girls were born. We had to train them to close the bathroom door once the twins were mobile.
When the twins are very young and they just lie down or they’re not crawling yet, it’s easy not to completely childproof your home. When you’ve got older kids that then leave little hazards around and these doors open, you have to start to train your older kids to close doors and to keep things safe for their younger twin siblings.
Three Tips to Calm the Chaos
When we were experiencing similar issues to what you’re describing, we found three things very helpful. First was a regular predictable schedule for the kids. This helped with sleeping, eating, and behavior. With fewer surprises the kids always knew what to expect and this improved their overall behavior.
(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)
Secondly, we constantly reinforce the positive and correct behavior we want our kids to do. They, in turn, seek that attention and choose to do the right thing. You can verbally praise your twins and your 5-year-old when they do something right.
For example, playing with their toys instead of in the toilet or even closing the bathroom door and how thankful you are that they did that.
Third, we used redirection to stop bad behavior and turn the kid’s attention to a more appropriate activity. For example, if the twins are in the toilet, calmly tell them, “No, we don’t play in the toilet.” Wash them up and then redirect them to another activity that’s approved, more safe for them, and is in another room.
Take a Break from the Chaos
You need to get a break as well. It’s very well deserved and it is important as a parent to get a break from your twins and your family, because otherwise you’re going to go crazy. If you don’t take the time to replenish, then enjoying your family becomes a lot harder.
We found that kid swaps with other families do help in freeing up time, or you can always get a babysitter. Or even let Dad tuck in the kids one night when he isn’t working, so you can take a break.
This question was originally addressed on the Dad’s Guide to Twins Podcast episode 32: When to Start Preparations, Sleeping Arrangements, Calming the Chaos of Twins.
Picture by Nayelli Rodriguez